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Prime Time For Kids Adds "Snoezelen Room" To Its Early Learning Center

Hi-tech sensory stimulation space is both calming and therapeutic

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Members of The Arc Rockland’s Board of Directors and staff were given a June 14th sneak preview of the agency’s new Snoezelen Room located at The Arc’s Prime Time for Kids Early Learning Center in New City.

The intimate 17 x11 foot space is a sensory stimulation environment illuminated by soft lights and filled with cozy bean-bag chairs, 4-foot-tall plastic tubes of quietly bubbling water, vibrating cushions, plug-in aroma therapy units, inviting music, textured toys and other sensory stimuli.  Developed in the Netherlands in the 1970s, the Snoezelen Room concept has spread throughout the world and is used in various settings as a therapeutic environment for people with developmental disabilities, brain injury and dementia.

“Some children with developmental disabilities can be very sensitive to sensory input. They can quickly feel as though they are on overload and become agitated,” explains Dr. Dinorah D’Auria, The Arc Rockland’s Managing Director of Clinical and Family Services. “But each child reacts differently to various stimuli. A clinical evaluation can determine which stimuli calm the child and which have the opposite effect. The benefit of the Snoezelen Room is that the stimuli may be individualized to the needs of the child.”

Using an iPad programmed for the Snoezelen Room , The Arc Rockland’s Director of Children’s Services David Saulpaugh demonstrated the ways in which the sensory environment may be modified for each child. “Our ‘Somatron’ chair is hooked up to a CD player. The child will feel the music vibrate through the cushion,” he explains. “We can control the choice of music and the volume, the color of the bubbles in the tubes and the degree of lighting in the room.”

With the lights dimmed, projected images of floating stars, a revolving sphere with views of outer space, hot air balloons and animals moved across the walls. Infinity mirrors situated in a rectangular box offer the illusion of an endlessly repeated image.  “A child may set the box to display still or moving images or flashing patterns of light in various colors, with or without musical accompaniment,” says Mr. Saulpaugh.

The opportunity to choose a sensory environment is beneficial.  One child might decide to rotate wall-mounted wheels filled with tiny beads.  Another might wish to play with thin fiber-optic strands of tiny lights draped over a low table.  “Some youngsters will want to wrap themselves in weighted blankets that provide a sense of security, lie on a large reclining rocker covered in a plush ivory-colored throw or cause a Lady Bug cushion to vibrate just with the touch of a hand.

“While research is still being conducted to demonstrate the influence of sensory stimulation on an individual’s behavior or ability to regulate their emotions, professionals in clinical practice who integrate these modalities will testify to their effectiveness,” notes Dr. D’Auria. “I compare the benefits to those adults derive from having a massage or going to the beach. It calms us, relaxes us, and prepares us for returning to work.  Similarly, Prime Time can set up a program by which a child with sensory issues starts the day in the Snoezelen Room, providing the kind of sensory input that calms him, primes him to stay calm and provides him the opportunity to practice calming strategies.

“Sometimes maladaptive behavior is based on a child’s wanting a sense of control, or his or her inability to communicate,” continues Dr. D’Auria. “The Snoezelen Room provides some of this in an environment where it is easier to focus and learn new functional skills. The speech therapist may conduct therapy sessions in the Snoezelen room because it is a more calming environment than an office or classroom.”

Some youngsters will use the room several times a week; others will visit on an as needed basis.  According to Mr. Saulpaugh, no more than one or two preschoolers will use the Room for a maximum of one-half hour at a time and always accompanied by a staff member trained in the use of the room.

The Snoezelen Room at Prime Time for Kids was built with a $25,000 grant from Arc Foundation of Rockland, Inc., and installed by FlagHouse, a company that specializes in creating Snoezelen sensory spaces.

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Thank You to ARC of Rockland’s 2018 Corporate Sponsors: